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The Whole Autumn
September 6 - December 6, 2016
Great Reno Balloon Race - Carol gets a job - Loma Prieta fire - Lisa thrown off a horse - Los Gatos Christmas Parade
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Friday's mass ascent at the Great Reno Ballon Race.
Friday's mass ascent at the Great Reno Ballon Race.
Traditionally, a ballooning rally takes place in Reno, Nevada, one week after Labor Day. And since Jeanne and Tom regularly visit there, we would not miss this opportunity to see them again. They journey from South Dakota, while we only cross California in its narrow direction to Nevada. And besides, the race is always very pretty.

New and popular shapes appear among the ballons.
New and popular shapes appear among the ballons.
We picked the children up from their respective school class on Thursday noon and then sped off in the easterly direction. We even managed to fetch a parking chit from Jeanne before curfew, and hurried off to our own beds. Friday morning was still a bit merciful, as everybody flies after sunrise, and we could sleep in — until about five. Getting up was followed by hanging around with the balloonists, chatting, and in the end we got around to assembling the balloons and taking off and flying. This year's new interesting shapes we could admire were: a Piranha, and Pirate Parakeet, and a Pirate Ship. Lisa insisted on going to run in inflatable bubbles — she could not do that well the previous year with her then-broken toe.

We had planned shopping for the afternoon. Sierra Trading Post, an online outdoor gear store, is located in Reno, and has a physical outlet there. Tom and I bougth proper head-lapms — during my last trip I got impressed by one with red light. Even in a complete darkness in a wilderness, you can mostly see around yourself with a mere red light, but you (an nobody else) won't be blinded, and continue to register the rest of our surroundings, not just a circle burned bright with the flash-light.

Dawn Patrol: a popular and difficult flight of select pilots
				before sunrise.
Dawn Patrol: a popular and difficult flight of select pilots before sunrise.
On Saturday morning, Tom and I had plenty of opportunity to test our new lights. We got up at three thirty, and assembled our balloon for Dawn Patrol. Alas, my new head-lamp did not endure its first use — it was getting strangely warm and eventually gave out completely; it would seem that something inside had shorted and burned. This determined our afternoon plan — go get the thing exchanged. It did not turn out to be simple, for they were out of head-lights. The clerk offered to mail me a replacement for free, so it kind of ended well after all, only I was still short of a functional light for Sunday morning.

On Saturday evening we joined other balloonists for a dinner. They had chosen a place named Pinocchio in Sparks — which had several advantages — it wasn't as crowded as another such in Reno, we were able to park there, and the food was excellent. So was the company, of course. Evening parties with balloonists are short — everybody has to go to bed soon, and even in this it was merciful for the kids, who don't have much fun listening to old boring people talk.

Dragon Moon has successfully landed after a night flight, making pilots and crew happy.
Dragon Moon has successfully landed after a night flight, making pilots and crew happy.
On Sunday morning, a breeze was blowing, which is always bad news for hot air balloons — still, Dawn Patrol balloons had flown. Sadly, the following mass ascent did not get permission from the FAA. Even our extremely careful Jeanne rumbled that if we were to give up flying for such little wind, we could never really take off, but no one would cross a gummint edict. An so we packed and left for home.

This weekend was somewhat exhausting for me also because I was perpetually receiving e-mails and phone calls regarding a JOB. I did explain to the agency people multiple times that I was going be away from home between Thursday and Sunday, and whatever I would not finish scanning and e-mailing by Thursday, would be available beginning next Monday morning. They still disregarded it and kept calling and demanding.

Northern Point Lobos.
Point Lobos is one of several satisfying and easy-to-reach destinations of our local trips.
Thus, on the following Wednesday I put on a skirt and set out to meet my new lifestyle. I had experienced most of my career in Czech Republic, where my knowledge of English afforded me a decent income; now I had found myself in a situation where my Czech would pay the bills. The most surprising thing about working in a job was that I loved it. Even occupying a cubicle in an open-plan office wasn't so bad, since I was sharing my den with María, a Catalan sixteen years younger, who spent her break chasing pokémons, but was otherwise very smart woman; one with whom you can talk about anything. The other positive aspect of the job was its contracting nature, ending after three months. Seeing the end of the tunnel ahead of me allowed me to tolerate a lot. And the six-hour-a-day worktime, which I insisted on, had also worked out — given the composition of our family and animals, it's possibly the maximum I am able to cope with, and even so my days were planned minute by minute.

Family had to do their part, too — besides Sid, who had to cover gaps in shopping and cooking schedule, part of the chores fell on the children. Now that they got their cellphones, you can use them for reporting that they had arrived at home, and dispatching lists of to-dos. Nothing critical, but about ten minutes a day that SOMEONE ELSE devotes to, say, sweeping the hallway or folding socks after laundry, are still ten minutes I can devote to, say, sleeping.

Loma Prieta burning.
Loma Prieta, only a few miles south-west of our home, was briefly burning.
Naturally in the moment I got the feeling that our new household schedule began taking root, I spotted smoke looming over our house when arriving home. Loma Prieta, a wooded mountain in line of sight, was burning in a wildfire, and with some effort one could see raging flames, but it immediately meant preparing evacuation of our goats. Fortunately, the fire never got to the stables in the end; instead, Comet and Tilly got added to our little herd. Not that anybody bothered to ask me if it was OK; they happened to join my goats in their pen. For sure, I would not have refused them, as I was rather glad to see them again, as they spent their first five months with us and grew up to be beautiful and friendly goats — but the owners could have at least asked.

A week after the wildfire, when I thought that NOW it could all settle down, once of a sudden, Snickerdoodle spooked under Lisa and catapulted her into the railing of the arena. I don't know who was crying louder, Lisa or I, but those ten seconds, before I finished running to her, were horribly long. Disentangling her from the railing and checking, whether she can feel her fingers and toes, was nerve-wracking. And it appeared that it was not as easy as putting her in my car and driving her to the ER, for she was complaining about neck and head pain. So an ambulance, a trip to a hospital, and so on. Luckily, the doctors only found broken collarbone and nose. I never thought I would be glad for only a few fractures, but in this case, she could have gone down much worse. I'm sure I have a few more gray hairs after this.

Lisa 4 days later.
This is what Lisa looked like four days after he accident.
On the same evening I wrote to her school that Lisa had an accident and that she would spend a few days at home, asking teachers to expect her not to be able to write (naturally, being a lefty, she broke her left collarbone), and requesting a spare computer. Students are regularly issued Chromebooks, which they carry home and which they use for school projects and most homework. The computer is relatively heavy (especially compared to Lisa, who had been reaching seventy pounds), add a few notepads a book here and there — now Lisa could carry things only in her right hand, unable to use a back-pack. Responses from the school carried in the direction that it was not a problem and that they hoped that she would get better soon. Except for a phys-ed teacher, who, besides wishing us speeding recovery, declared that given Lisa's three-day absence, her new PE grade fell to C, but she would be able to improve it — and given the nature of the injury she would be allowed an extension of the remedial period beyond the usual fortnight. I thought I was dreaming this — by this time Lisa would cry with pain just having to change clothes; I had to brush her hair, wash her, it was just like dealing with a baby — and she was to start improving her STUPID PHYSICAL EDUCATION? I don't know if all PE teachers undergo some special classes to make all their students hate PE as much as possible through military boot camp manners, but this one had to fly through such a class with special honors.

Dolphins near Davenport Landing.
Once, we could see very active dolphins from our favorite beach at Davenport Landing.
Thus, on Monday when Lisa was returning to school, I went along — to get issued the extra notebook (to have one in class and one at home, and did not have to haul it a half mile to and fro), and also to cause a scene regarding how it is possible to have a child failing physical education only because she broke a bone and therefore cannot participate. Fortunately I was equipped with a report from the ER, which specified how long Lisa was not permitted to exercise — as I really did not think to request an extra note for the PE teacher at the hospital. To be brief, PE got sorted out. Alas, Lisa's injury had also "sorted out" our complicated commute to vaulting, and the problem with fitting an event at the stables into the same day with a vaulting class, tightly following a weekend with a riding competition.

And of course, my goats had to start getting in heat at the same time, and it was necessary to move them between their mountain pen and Gilroy, where Thor awaited them. The first time around I put such endeavor off to the next morning, and it was too late. Three weeks later I set out right away, and although I thought only Licorice was in heat, they had been both after all, only my Twilight is not hysteric and goes through things less conspicuously. I had to brag; second attempt of stuffing goats into their crates in our bus went rather smoothly. Same with disembarking at Shelly's; they knew where we were going, and so I did not have to wrestle with them. Departure was, indeed, more complicated, and Thor, yelling while perched on top of his hut, to make the girls stay and keep the party going, was not helping either.

Still life with goats.
Bear Creek Stables aren't always this idyllic.
The next trouble awaited after arriving to the stables. Comet had been harassing Twilight earlier, but in the time of heat, all seven goats got crazy and atmosphere could be cut with a knife. When I had found Twilight shaking and hyper-ventilating in a corner, which she feared to leave even for food, I had to feed her manually and prevent Comet from half-killing her outright. Thus, Comet and Tilly had to go to a separate pen, with no run. I don't hold it against Comet, he acted very logically — under natural circumstances, the herd would not include his sister (and he was courting Licorice, who's not from the same litter — the poor wether is not aware of his limitation). Still I can't leave these goats together, much less in our pen, which is simply too small for four goats.

On account of Lisa's accident we had to cancel our fishing trip to Leavitt, and subsequent backpacking hike — as Lisa could not carry anything and her shoulder being painful for a long time, and sleeping and dressing in a tent was out of the question. The only plan remaining was Ned's arrival. Craig had brought the horse right to the stables again. Ned did neigh at Craig, but then settled back in his place with the air of an old hand. He ran around and rolled in the round pen and arenas, and said that he was looking forward to the local mess with regular supply of hay. It's interesting that he's no longer afraid of things that he used to fear before his departure earlier this year. He also seems in a better shape, physically and mentally. I got him last year after having overcome a bowed tendon, and he was all stiff; he's really fit this time.

Whale's mouth sticking out.
One does not always see much on a whale-watching trip — this time, a cetacean showed himself thus only once.
Thus, care of Lisa got embellished by care of a horse. In practice it looked as follows: I made lunches for the kids in the morning and left for the stables a half hour before they would go to class. I outed my goats and Ned both, squeezed through the traffic jams to my work, had a quick shower, clocked in my six hours, organized house chores over the phone, shopped for food on my way home, sorted out homework and school troubles, cooking dinner — twice in a week went climbing to a gym in the evening, and once a week took the kids to a goat club. A shower closed the evening, followed by falling into my bed, unconscious.

It should probably not have surprised me when I woke up once, sometime in mid-November, with tingling in half of my face. A check of my grin in the mirror proved I was not paralyzed, and so I trotted to the doctor's for antibiotics on sinus infection. This carried me across the end of my job project, to Thanksgiving.

It is traditional to go to our obligatory Lone Pine, but since our friend Ajka had to go work on Friday, we agreed on a two-day trip to Pinnacles and Los Padres, to be with our friends. Naturally in rained throughout both days, and we ended up going nowhere. Honestly, with my sinus infection, it would be no fun even in dry weather. Yet we lost our rare opportunity to get out.

Kids and goats in Los Gatos Christmas Parade.
Kids and goats in Los Gatos Christmas Parade.
We had only limited options with Lisa's shoulder, and this had been a set-back to our plans to do something fun. Still we did not stay put; we did go whale-watching, easy for Lisa to participate. Nevertheless, Lisa could only watch and photograph our gym climbing, stable visits by our friends, where I let other kids ride Ned — hard luck for Lisa.

In the end, the remaining autumn highpoint became Los Gatos Christmas Parade. I had sworn the year before that I should NEVER let anybody talk me into such affair, but a year had passed, and I gave in. Mostly because of Tilly and Comet — these were goats ready to take part in a parade. Our own goats were both pronounced pregnant on the week before, and I did not want to stress them. I must admit that the vet gave me a pause. She had found one clearly formed embryo in Licorice, and then just a blob, which could be a kid. Yet she spotted two embryos in Twilight, but said that there may be "three or more" kids. While Nigerian Dwarf goats commonly have multiple babies, it does not mean at all it's good for them. Twins are OK, but triples need experienced mothers, and Fawn did not cope with quadruplets at all; she rejected Blizzard and Tuxedo. Now I shall be worried for my little goatie — and for the baby goats, should they survive. We can only hope for the wisdom of natural selection that the extra embryos may stop developing and there would be really only two.

Garry's tractor was apparently a centerpiece of interest in the parade.
Garry's tractor was apparently a centerpiece of interest in the parade.
But back to the parade. This year I was actually parading someone else's goats. I know Comet and Tilly, but still, they had spent a year out of our stables, and I don't hold a relationship with them as I do with my own Twilight and Licorice. Fortunately for everybody, our new manager Pam had included a trailer with hay in the parade, on which we could load our foldable pen. And a tractor, driven by Garry, became a great magnet for Tom. I don't blame him; other participants in our group were all female and mostly under ten years of age. Would you not agree that a man with a TRACTOR is a completely different cup of tea than a gang of giggling little girls?

For me, the tractor with a trailer represented my backup plan — a spot one could fold upon. With the begin of December, my sinus inflammation had returned, and I was munching through a second round of antibiotics. Against all expectations, the children wanted to get up at half past five in the morning with me and go with me loading the goats at the stables, and so they lasted through the whole senseless marathon, which began at six a.m. and ended at three p.m., to let us spend altogether twenty minutes in the parade. Which went just fine, for besides Comet and Tilly there were Julie with Blizzard and Tux, raising the stakes to total four goats, two ponies, one miniature horse, and a bunch of children, not to mention the tractor. Comet and Tilly, upon exiting the parade, decided on a strike and said, not a step farther. Again, the tractor came handy — we loaded the striking goats into their respective crates for the rest of the route to the staging area and the car. Even I could sit down and ride along. This way the parade felt less exhausting than the year before, with better organization and backup (tractor) — but perhaps we knew what we were signing up for. Am I going to join in a year? Can't say yet.

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